Family Pride, leaders respond to Maggert, upcoming subcommittee hearings

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In a cooperative effort that includes the Family Pride Coalition and The Evan B. Donaldson Institute, Tennessee GLBT activists are moving down range in defense against the attack on families. In recognition of the upcoming Domestic Relations and Family Justice Subcommittees hearings scheduled for aimed at restricting GLBT foster care and adoption, the need for mobilization around these issues appears to be immediate in nature.

"These measures are very likely to be amended and become specifically anti-gay as they pertain to adoption and child custody language," said Jennifer Chrisler, Executive Director of Family Pride. "If they are amended and pass, thousands of children in need will be denied safe, loving and permanent homes. Any adult — gay or straight — who truly cares about the welfare of the children of Tennessee should vigorously oppose these measures."

Legislators aligned with GLBT forces are working feverishly in hopes of amending bills in order to alter existing bills to meet their goals. This tactic has been evident in several previous attempts in other states as a way to mandate homophobic family law without requiring a full vote in the General Assembly. Attempts to pass an anti-GLBT adoption and foster care bill failed last year when House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh addressed the Children and Family Affairs Committee where HB775, a bill to ban GLBT adoptions, was defeated by a vote of 11-9.

Adam Pertman, Executive Director of The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, spoke to the needs of children in foster care. “There are 500,000 children languishing in the foster care system in this country. To deny them a chance to have a permanent, stable family is simply unfair.” The Institute is a pre-eminent research, policy, and education organization that addresses issues surrounding adoption and prides itself on its independence from any interest group or cause. The Institute’s recently released report entitled, "Expanding Resources for Children," states clearly that there is no child-centered reason for prohibiting GLBT people from adopting or becoming foster parents.

The Tennessee Equality Project’s (TEP) Media Director Chris Sanders pointed out TEP’s efforts in monitoring this legislation to keep members aware of their movement as events unfold. “We are aware of these stealth efforts to amend this legislation due to the presence of our lobbyist, Jenny Ford, and other TEP members who have alerted us to these developments.”

Family Pride and TEP urge individuals and organizations to attend the hearing on April 11 to express their opposition to the proposed legislation, as well as encouraging their members and supporters to write and call members of the Domestic Relations Subcommittee and the Family Justice Subcommittee to tell them not to allow any anti-family amendments to the bills discussed at the hearing on April 11.

At a media conference on Wednesday, April 5th, Jennifer Chrisler, executive director, Family Pride; Adam Pertman, Executive Director, The Evan B. Donaldson Institute; Christopher Sanders, Media Director, Tennessee Equality Project; Dr. Christopher Harris, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt Department of Pediatrics, Division of Pulmonary Medicine and past President of the American Academy of Pediatrics; and Scott Hines, gay parent who will be testifying at the April 11 hearing convened in a teleconference to address the attack on GLBT families currently underway in Tennessee.

These issues rose to the surface after Rep. Maggert (R-45) responded to a letter from a constituent in which she made disparaging remarks regarding GLBT homes and families

“I am not convinced that just because our foster children desperately need loving homes that we should just place them in homes that are available when research also shows that most homosexual couples have numerous emotional dysfunctions and psychological issues that may not be healthy for children,” Maggert stated in her email response.

Maggert’s remarks are seen by many activists as a window into the heart of the GLBT adoption and foster care foes. Many activists have been galvanized to action as a result of the media coverage of Rep. Maggert’s openly homophobic viewpoint.

Dr. Christopher Harris, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt Department of Pediatrics – Division of Pulmonary Medicine and past President of the American Academy of Pediatrics, spoke to the conferees regarding his experience as an adoptive parent. Scott Hines, a gay parent who will address the combined subcommittee hearing next Tuesday, also offered his perspective regarding GLBT foster care and adoption as experienced here in Tennessee.